Usain Bolt overcame a slow start to win the 100 meters at the Ostrava Golden Spike meeting today as he gears up for a final world championships in London this summer.
In his second 100m outing of his final season, the Jamaican was slow out of the blocks but jumped ahead before the halfway point to finish in a time of 10.06 seconds, just edging Yunier Perez of Cuba, who ran a personal best 10.09 seconds.
Bolt, who has eight Olympic gold and 13 world championship medals, will retire after August’s world championships.
The 30-year-old said he was not happy about clocking over 10 seconds for the second straight race, although he remained confident about the remainder of the season.
“I am not happy with the time but I am just getting to my running,” he told the sellout crowd after his ninth and final appearance at the meet in the eastern Czech industrial city.
“I will be fine. So there will be no worries.”
Bolt has become a regular at the Ostrava meet and his fans showed their appreciation at the end of the night, holding up placards to form the Jamaican flag as Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” played in the stadium.
“The biggest thing is always the crowd… That is why I keep coming back here. You guys are wonderful. Thanks for everything,” Bolt said.
With Bolt moving closer to retirement, a number of athletes could be set to emerge from his shadow.
Among them is South African Wayde van Niekerk, who broke the 300m world record earlier in the evening, rubbing Michael Johnson out of the record books for the second time in less than a year.
The 24-year-old, who beat Johnson’s 400m best at last summer’s Rio Olympics, recorded a time of 30.81 seconds in the rarely-run 300m, bettering the American’s previous mark of 30.85 seconds set in 2000.
Van Niekerk’s time also beat the Ostrava meeting record set by Bolt in 2010.
“I have been improving in each and every one of my events so it is a great step for the year and I am feeling quite confident for the rest of the year,” the sprinter, who is expected to run the 200m and 400m at the world championships in London in August, told Czech Television.
“I was ready to dig deep and just get used to the feeling of the longer events. I am pleased with today.”
Meanwhile up and coming Canadian sprint prodigy Andre De Grasse expressed confidence that now could be the right time to beat Bolt and said the sprinter had lost pace over the years.
“He’s one of the best. For me to have people stop talking about it, I have to go out there and beat him,” De Grasse said.
The 22-year-old is, however, yet to come close so far. De Grasse finished in third place at the last two major championships, not only behind Bolt, but behind American Justin Gatlin as well. The Canadian, however, feels experience and improved form could make the difference this year. De Grasse recently clocked a heavily wind-aided 9.69 in Stockholm. Bolt on the other hand opened his season with a 10.03 clocking in Kingston at the Racers Grand Prix.
“Everyone knows he’s slowing down a little bit,” De Grasse said. “He’s getting older, but he’s still the man to beat.
“He’s still running fast times.”
Also on the track today in Ostrava Britain’s Mo Farah held on to beat Mathew Kimeli of Kenya in the 10,000m with a time of 27 minutes 12.09 seconds.